African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou

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Stars: ****

I received this book for review from the author to use for the African Reading Challenge. I’m also counting it towards the Book Around the World Challenge, Unfread Authors and ARC Challenge.

This book was written and published in Africa in 2003 and Soft Skull Press (click link for more info) published an English translation by Christine Schwartz Hartley in 2007.

The best way to describe what this book is about is to show you what’s on the back of the book:

“I have decided to kill Germaine on December 29… Ideally, I would enjoy as
much media coverage as my idol, Angoualima, the most famous of our country’s
assassins. From time to time, to give thanks for his genius, to keep him
informed of what I am doing, or even just for the pleasure of talking to him, I
make my way to the cemetery of the Dead-Who-Are-Not-Allowed-To-Sleep and kneel in front of his grave. And there, as if by magic, I swear, the Great Master of
crime appears before me, as charismatic as in his glory days. We converse in the
privacy of this sinister locale, the haunt of crows and other birds of bad

Thus begins African Psycho, the American debut of a remarkable new African voice, Alain Mabanckou, Gregoire, the novel’s would-be serial killer, has been abandoned by his parents, shuffled by the state from one foster home to another, and now finds himself alone, a downtrodden laborer, seething with anger at the abject poverty of his city, the pomposity of the out-of-touch media, and the incompetence and corruption of government agencies. Taking the dead killer as his phantom mentor, Gregoire vows to overcome his ignominious history of botched petty crime by pulling of a truly memorable murder, a culminating crime that will elevate him far above the misery of his surroundings and put him on the map forever…

Okay back to my words. This was a WEIRD and DISTURBING book. If you don’t want to read about murder, rape and sex, don’t read this book. There are some curse words too although compared to the descriptions of crimes, this is nothing. However it was also a good book. It is a very interesting and very original. This is the first book I’ve seen on crime that wasn’t a true crime novel. The writing style made it easy to follow but at the same time, it was different because it was both chronological and not. The book takes place during a span of only two days but during that time Germaine recounts his past during different parts of his life and not necessarily in order from birth to now. Yet I didn’t find myself too confused.

Another very different aspect of this book is that for the most part, it doesn’t tell you where it’s taking place, other than Africa. Instead of real place names or even fake ones, the neighbourhood he lives in is called He-Who-Drinks-Water-Is-An-Idiot. Yes that entire phrase is used every time the place is mentioned, which is often. Then there is the special cemetery titled The-Dead-Who-Are-Not-Allowed-To-Sleep and the band, the Brothers The-Same-People-Always-Get-To-Eat-In-This-S&*%ty-Country. (The book doesn’t censor the word though.) I found this intriguing and it made me want to know what part of the continent was being talked about.

However through a little deducing I was able to figure out it takes place in Point-Noire, Congo. How did I figure this out? Well their are lots of clues: author from Congo Brazzaville – French Congo, they mention using francs, they mention Adolphe-Cisse hospital, they mention the languages bembe andgala, and mentions Central Africa. I quick internet search of the hospital showed it is a real one in Point-Noire, Congo.

Other Reviews:
From Complete Review
From Fantasy Book Spot

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.